« PrécédentContinuer »
tific man, who is also a deeply religious man, ought to be able more easily than others to be just and patient, for he knows beyond contradiction that science and religion are but two revelations of the one eternal unchanging mind—that in very deed they form but one book, "written within and without."
OUR IMPULSES OF JOY - THEIR SOURCE
ONE of the most noticeable and instructive facts, in the natural history of man, is the existence and continuance in him of impulses of joy. Gladness is a duty; the injunction—“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say it, rejoice”-is most wise, most characteristic of the Gospel. But joy is not only spontaneous ; it often bursts out like “songs in the night,” strangely contrasting with the current of thought, and the intent of the will. Men are often joyous, when according to our reasonings, from the force of circumstances, and even by their own intention, they should be sad. Gladness flashes up in the soul of the sorrowful, defying their misery, not to be kept down by dreariness or mishap.
One or two common incidents of life will serve to illustrate this. We may
into some house where the dead was lying, wondering how we should comfort the mourners in their irreparable loss; and we have been startled at hearing their merry laughter-not the grotesque and horrid laughter, sometimes forced by ludicrous incidents that seem a mockery of human grief, but wholesome laughter, cheerful and unconstrained, laughter that bespeaks a glad heart. All the while, we knew that their hearts were yearning wearily for the departed one, that the pain had not left them, and would not leave them this side the grave. A man has been pacing up and down his garden-path in anguish of spirit; no light for him in the brilliant heavens, no healing for him in the sweet summer-breeze; his soul heavy, perhaps, with doubt, his spirit dark with confusions; a lonely and distracted man; seeing no hope of anything but struggle, heartless and unrelieved, in all his future days. Suddenly, at the sight of a little flower, or at the scent of a garden-rose, his soul has burst its enthralment, and gone singing to the skies.
Nor are such impulses always traceable to any process of thought by which the sorrow is mastered and the doubt dispelled. Whatever share latent Christian feeling might have had in the consolation of the bereaved family, they were not conscious of Christian consolation ; their gladness came to them they knew not wherefore. The flower awakened no thought in the distracted spirit; quicker than thought could work in him, it appealed directly to his feeling. It is not only Paul and Silas who sing at midnight in the dungeon ; the convict sings in the dockyard, and the slave in the cotton-field. Until men are utterly degraded, instincts of joy innumerable abide within them, ready to spring out at the feeblest call, often springing out uncalled. It is a most difficult, for any but the hopelessly abandoned a quite impossible, thing to be always wretched; men try with all their heart to be miserable, but they cannot be. The moody misanthrope is often wonderfully cheerful ; sometimes, with strange inconsistency, very pleased that he is so gloomy. There are some Christian labourers who think that they ought to be sad in their work. They go among men, trying to oppress their souls with dark thoughts of sin, of the alienation of the multitudes from God, and the hell to which so many are hastening. They blame themselves for being glad at all in a wicked world, and doubt their Christian earnestness if they are so. Yet even these cannot suppress their joyous impulses. A fine day gives colour to their cheek, and buoyancy to their step; the sunlight ripples over their countenance in smiles. They laugh at children's prattle, and kiss the merry little beings, about whose future they are so despondent. Even while conscience stings them, they are glad in their work, and their rest is full of joy. Not always when we sing have we a joyous subject for our singing. The heart sings while intellect and will are gloomy; stranger still, the heart sings even while itself is sad.
Very often these impulses come from the deep convictions of the soul; a faith in God early implanted, and sending its roots into the very core of our being, so that nothing can overturn it. The spirit is steadfast, rejoicing in God, even though the mind may be perplexed, confused, and the heart may tremble under the shock that has laid its most cherished objects low. The ocean abides in central calm, while the storm blows over it, raising its surface into billows, and sinking it into yawning deeps. The man who has learnt the lesson of trust will never have his confidence really shaken. He may be, for a time, perplexed and wearied ; his thoughts may be distracted; to his eye all may appear dark and unmeaning. But, down in the recesses of his spirit, beyond the fathoming of his understanding, where his consciousness cannot pierce, and his will has its springs, he will be resting calmly in his God. And often his spirit will triumph over his understanding. The firm-seated conviction, the habit that has long given form to all his thoughts and feelings, will manifest itself amid his confusions. The quiet trustfulness, the joy in God, which is of the man himself, will rise in strong and blessed triumph against the conclusion of his thought. His impulses of joy are the triumphant revolt of his spirit against the domination of circumstance and the tyranny of his understanding.
The manifold joys of life--let us anticipate the conclusion of this paper, and say, the essential joyousness of life are constant in their influence. Sorrow is confronted with gladness; and sympathies, that we may not feel at work, begin their healing operation. The mingled lot of mortals, wherein grief and joy go ever hand in hand, has too long been regarded simply as a dire necessity; let us boldly look at this fact, and we shall see a blessed purpose in it. It is sad for the bridem wholesomely sad—that the cypress should twine with the orange in her wreath; it is well for the mourner that the orange blossoms should brighten his funereal chaplet. If sometimes the sunshine seems to mock the sorrowful, their sleep will be the sweeter for the sunlight, and to-morrow will find them hopeful again. “There is something in melancholy feelings," says Sir Walter Scott,“ more natural to an imperfect and suffering state than in those of gaiety, and when they are brought into collision, the former seldom fail to triumph. If a funeral train and a wedding procession were to meet unexpectedly, it will readily be allowed that the mirth of the last would be speedily merged in the gloom of the others." This is the first and most patent fact; another and a deeper truth is this, that cheerful influences are never lost. The subtler spiritual sensibilities perceive them; they are stored up, like summer sap in the buried roots of frost-nipped trees; and suddenly our depression is startled by healthy joyous impulses. Nature's beautiful and merry things; her grotesque things, the “jokes” of the universe are all about us; and have a mighty influence in stimulating an irrepressible gladness.
Of course, to say all this, is not to explain man's impulses of joy. Not always are they due to a latent piety; the habitually indifferent or unbelieving have them, as well as the man of pious spirit. Not always do they follow cheerful circumstances; and even when they do so, they are not created by the circumstances. These but appeal to a gladness that is of the man himself, they stimulate and awaken instincts of joy that are already in him. The very name, “impulses of joy,” suggests that we can puslı our analysis no further
. By studying them, we may trace their working, and watch their manifestation; but no study of then is their explanation. They are ultimate facts of man's nature : he is made not to be the victim of depression. He is so con
stituted that out of his deepest sadness joy will at times break forth. This is the fact, that, argue as he may, that he ought to be sad; say as he may, that there is no reason in his gladness; intend and strive as he may to be wretched, he cannot be held by his reasonings and intentions, but is constantly breaking out into joy. And now the source of these impulses is manifest. It is God who makes him so often glad. He is the author of human nature. He has surrounded men with influences appealing to the gladness he has constituted an essential of their being. He is the source of their unconquerable piety. God will not let men be the slaves of gloom; He puts into them impulses that even at night-time look for morning, anticipate and hasten on the day. He will not have men lie prostrate and sad when things are adverse ; He impels them to rise above their doubts, and shake from them their despondency. Often as they may think that all is over, perversely as they may hug themselves in dark distrust, notwithstanding the evil intention to despair in which they may allow themselves, the instinct of joy is unconquerable; at his whisper the spirit of the overworn or gloomy man rejoices. While men are looking out upon a dark and cheerless world, One is looking in on them, breathing into them his own inspirations, communicating to them of his joy. Joy would have died out of the world long ago if men could have killed it. The world has treated joy like every other minister of God—which of the prophets have they not sought to destroy ?-as it treated God's own son, refusing it and casting it out. But joy, too, is eternal, it rises again from the dead, and liveth evermore. That men are glad beyond their understanding and their intent, declares its sources to be beyond themselves--“ the joy of the Lord is your strength."
Bringing, now, these impulses to the light, and interrogating them, asking what purpose they serve and on what they rest, we find them witnessing to some cheering truths.
Regarded in their poorest aspect, they speak of the goodness of God. It may be said, “after all, there is not so much in them; they are to be accounted for on simply natural grounds. They are the reaction of an over-wrought spirit; a provision of nature to keep men in working order, to preserve the mind from the madness or lethargy which would follow bitter and unrelieved sorrow.” Be it so, is not this a very kind provision ? Is it not a most gracious thing that constant depression should be rendered so hard, well-nigh impossible ?--that the mind works joyously when it works freely, and that when it is taxed and tried beyond its ordinary power of resistance, a new source of strength should be opened up ?—that the stress of anguish should bring with it its own relief, that so life may triumph over death, and human nature be enabled to rise above all that would unsettle and destroy it? Our well-being is not left in our own keeping; there are times when nature asserts itself against the baffled understanding and the stricken will, and itself accomplishes the cure for which we find ourselves unable. How is it, moreover, that so great care is taken to preserve life? On any other supposition than God's goodness, it is unintelligible that he should wish to continue us here at all—to continue us with minds right and spirits ready for our work.
The unconquerable impulse of joy points also to an unconquerable instinct of faith. Trust is thus seen to be the natural attitude of man; he has an innate confidence which no mysteries of Providence, no perplexity of the understanding can destroy, that the world is under wise and righteous control, and that all is well, however he for a time may fail to see it. The sophistries, the doubts, the confusions of which his intellect may the subject do not attach to his impulses. Men could not go quietly about their daily work, nor take their nightly slumber, but for their inmost confidence in a wise and righteous rule. There could be no rejoicing at all if we suspected that badness, and not goodness, was the ruling motive of the world. The impulse of joy rests on an impulse of faith ; the spirit of man protests against the troubled judgment, the confounded will; the very constitution of his being “ cries through the sense to hearten trust,” and restore his shaken confidence in him who is over all.
These impulses of gladness speak of the personal character of God. The author of joy in us must be himself joyous; and the earnest care he takes to give and restore gladness to us reveals an infinite righteousness and rest. The consciousness of evil is ever the source of gloom and sadness; a dark, morose deity—there is horror in the very thought. He who dwells in fixed and central joy, must dwell sphered in central righteousness. What are we to think of him whose great care is to keep us cheerful and hopeful; who, pitying us in our perplexity and bitterness of spirit, is ever awakening in us fresh and gladsome impulses ? Surely there can be in him no darkness; all the darkness must be in us. It must be because we do not understand him that we are gloomy; He is ever coming out of his place to inspire courage in us; to breathe into our spirits a confidence that we cannot understand, but which is the source of patience, and courage, and hope, and continuance in welldoing
Joy, and not sorrow, is the key-note of the universe. This conviction is the root of all morality; without it, piety were a mockery, and life a ghastly dream. Trust is deeper in us than